An article in The Post yesterday incorrectly identified H. Taft, a Republican, was elected in 1908. Roosevelt was defeated for a second term in 1912 by Woodrow Wilson.
Their hearts beat fast for Ronnie, but something in their minds tells them to be wary. Perhaps it's the elephant syndrome at work. Elephants never forget, of course, and for this political pachyderm memories of crushing defeats still weigh heavily.
In their own self-portrait, Republican delegates preparing to convene in Detroit are more united about issues and ideology, more confident about the weakness of their political opponents and more certain they've got the manthey want to lead them than probably at any point in a generation.
Gone are the conflicts between progressive and conservative wings, between East and Midwest, of the past.
Absent are the personal clashes -- Taft and Eisenhower, Goldwater and Rockefeller -- that marked other conventions. TheGrand Old Party that has emerged out of those disputes is smaller and ideologically purer than ever -- and it stands enthusiastically behind its conservative choice, Ronald Reagan.
And yet the nagging doubts intrude. They love Reagan, all right, but they can't quite shake their worries about him. If the delegates could speak directly to their candidatein one voice now, the message would be clear -- "Don't blowit!"
They don't want Reagan to renounce his conservative principles, but they are concerned he will be perceived by voters as too right.
"Temper your ideology with pragmatism-- up to a point," is the way one delegate offers advice tothe certain GOP standard-bearer. "Don't depend totally on the right-wing groups. Be sensibly conservative."
That delegate is typical of many of the 602 delegates, selected at random, who responded to a Washington Post poll between June24 and July 1. She's a lawyer and Republican officeholder from Virginia who classifies herself as "very conservative."Reagan has been her choice at both the 1976 convention and this one.
Being sensibly conservative and ideologically pragmatic (up to a point) may define the spirit of these convention delegates, but the poll results GIVE FURTHER EVIDENCEOF THE NARROWING OF THE GOP. These delegates form a party of privilege -- and, to a large degree, of exclusion.
They are almost all white: only 2 percent are black. They are wealthy, with 43 percent boasting family incomes in excess of $50,000 a year and 29 percent falling in the 30,000 to $50,000 range. (Only 2 percent have incomes below $12,000.) They are predominantly male. Women comprise 30 percent of thedelegates.They are largely Protestant, by three out of four. They are middle-aged, with more than half of them 50 years and older.
And they are clearly, in their own minds, conservative. Only 17 percent classify themselves on the moderate-to-liberal side of the political spectrum. A full fifth of the delegates describes their political ideology as "very conservative."
They are true belivers whose views closely mirror those of Reagan. Their actions these past few days on women's rights issues would come as no surprise if you study their poll returns. Seventy percent of them told Post questioners they opposed ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, for instance. Their responses to other national questions spell out a similarly conservative approach.
On the government instituting a comprehensive national health program now, 88 percent are opposed.
On imposing wage and price controls to fight inflation, 91 percent are opposed.
On stopping construction of nuclear power plants because of safety and waste disposal problems, 85 percent are opposed.
On the government guaranteeing a job for every person who wants to work, 85 percent are opposed.
Onrationing gasoline instead of deregulating oil prices to conserve energy, 88 percent are opposed.
What they're for also strongly adds up to a conservative national viewpoint. More examples:
On cutting taxes even it means putting off important things that have to be done, 79 percent approve.
On balancing the budget even at the expense of social programs, 75 percent approve.
On using the CIA both to support friendly foreign governments to undermine hostile ones, 65percent approve.
On reinstituting the military draft, 55percent approve.
They are also strongly probusiness (90 percent reject the idea that businessmen have too much powerfor the good of the country) and overwhelmingly (88 percent) think the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan threatens U.S. national security.
And in a day when political party differences have blurred or become nonexistent in the eyes of manyAmericans, and in face of the continuing rise of independent voters, these Republicans cling to their convictions. They are sure their party stands for something special. When asked about the GOP and the Democrats, 65 percent said they believed there was a great deal of difference between the twoparties. Only 8 percent felt there was hardly any difference.
But unity, of course, does not mean perfect accord. If there is any major split among the delegates, it appears to be over Reagan's choice of a running mate. The more moderate 40 percent of the delegates polled strongly favor the selection of someone who is perceived as a moderate. Three of every four of them who express a choice want to fill out the ticket with either George Bush or Howard Baker or someoneelse of moderate reputation.
The conservatives are equally strong in wanting Reagan to choose someone who is clearlyviewed as representing the political right. Among those who call themselves very conservative, the people considered by many to be the heart of the Reagan constituency and the dominant force at the convention, four out of five who expressa choice want Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), or another person with at least as respectable conservative credentials, as Reagan's running mate.
As for the approaching presidential contest, the Republicans obviously view Jimmy Carter with contempt.
Their ratings of the president, based on the familiar 0 to 10 scale, put Carter at the bottom of every category. Their overall rating of his presidential performance comes to a bleak 2.2 on that scale. Others were:
On his handling of foreign policy 1.5.
On his handling of the economy, 1.7.
On his ability to deal with Congress, 2.3.
On his handling of the Iranian hostage crisis, 1.8.
On his coattail effect for Democratic officers in the delegates' own state, 1.9.
To the Republicans, these kinds of examples of Carter failures give them a great opportunity in November. They give the president only a 3.5 rating when asked abouthis chance of beating Reagan.
Nor do they seem worried by John R. Anderson's departure from their nominating processand his own presidential prospects. The great majority (63percent) thinks Anderson will hurt Carter more. They see Anderson doing almost no damage to Reagan. Only 2 percent believe Anderson will hurt their candidate.
Yet -- again --the striking paradox. With all these tantalizing visions of victory before them, the Republicans seem peculiarly ill at ease about November. For theat impression, you have to turn not to the computer printouts but their own words.
Each delegate was given the opportunity to respond to this question:
"If you could give Ronald Reagan one piece of advice to help him in his campaign, what would that be?"
Theverbatim answers recorded show a clear sense of disquiet --and some signs of tension -- between the solid core of the ardent conservative Reagan faithful and the remainder of theparty.
Winning is the concern. The fear expressed is that Regan will fall by being seen as too ideological, too narrow, or even too ineffective as a candidate. A surprising number volunteered worries that Reagan would blunder and destroy himself.
Don't make any mistakes . . . Be guarded around reporters . . . Watch what you say in press conferences . . . Get your facts straight . . . Don't put your foot in your mouth. These are typical of many responses of delegatesfrom across the country.
Others worry that Reagan will not balance the ticket by picking a vice presidential candidate who appeals to a broader spectrum of the society.
What's most interesting polically is that many of these commentscome from staunch Reagan supporters, those who consider themselves conservatives.
"Listen to the broad spectrum of the public and not mold ideas but accommodate those views in policy making," said a Reagan delegate from Georgia. He's been a Reagan delegate in 1976 and now and considers himself very conservative.
"Make certain that you select a running mate with a light conservative background or you'll turn too many people off," says a delegate from Washington State.He, too, has been for Reagan before and remains enthusiastically with him now.
"Watch his mouth," cautions a 54-year-old delegate from Louisiana. She's another loyal Reagan supporter.
"Don't say anything that you can't back up with facts," advises a 46-year-old lawyer from Virginia. He's been with Reagan before his campaign, too.
"Attract the middle-of-the-road Republican," urges an Oklahoma man. He supported Reagan four years ago and thinks of himself as somewhat conservative.
"Talk to the working man, the man who carries the lunch bucket," counsels a Utah lawyer, another two-time self-professed Reagan delegate. "That's where we'll win or lose."
Set against these views are an unyielding group who will brook no changes in Reagan's political behavior, nor accept any compromises to win disparate factions.
"Don't worry about placating liberal factions of the party," says a Reagan delegate from Tennessee who calls herself very conservative.
"Stay conservative and stay well," comes theword from a 49-year-old Indianapolis delgate.
"Do not compromise in order to get votes," says a California delegate another very conservative one.
"Continue to shoot from the hip," remarks a West Virginian, who has stood behind Reagan in the past as well as now.
But such views do not dominate the responses given The Post. What comes over is a desire -- and an appeal -- that Reagan be cautious in his actions, tempered in his words, and conciliatory in his approach.Uniting the party, moderating the views of the more extrememembers of the GOP, paying heed to wider range of national opinion, expanding the circle of his advisers to include a better ideological mix -- these are the major concerns expressed.
This survey of the Republican National Convention delegates, the third since 1972, shows how relatively similar the GOP makeup remains -- and how set apart from the countryat large, as well as from the Democrats.
Democrats in that first survey year, for example, had five times as many Jewish delegates and a third more Catholics, in addition to three times more blacks. Women Democratic delegates then comprised 40 percent of the total, while the GOP had one-third women. Now the Republican number of women has actually shrunk, just as have the ranks of those who considered themselvesliberals.
In 1972, 5 percent of the GOP delegates said they were liberals. Today in Detroit only three-tenths of 1 percent called themselves very liberal. And 1 percent put themselves in the "somewhat liberal" column.
But those figures don't relfect that greater difference between those conventions. Then, despite their slightly more liberal numbers, the delegates came over as much more strongly conservativein the personal opinions given the Post.
Hostility toward the press, passionate defenses of Spiro T. Agnew and Richard M. Nixon, and a more sharply honed conspiratorial sense of "us and them" colored their words.
Voices from the recent past:
"The Republican Party offers the only reasonable alternative to radical-liberal, radical-labor control of theDemocrat Party."
Another: "We need men of guts and not long-haired militants."
And another: "Such statesmen as Franco of Spain or von Thadden of Germany is what this nation needs."
Those kinds of comments are almost entirely missing in this first national political convention of the 1980s. Since nearly half of those attending the Detroit convention were present at other GOP conclaves, the absence of the old fiery words certainly says something about how attitudes havebeen tempered. It also surely reflects the changes their party and their nation have undergone, Watergate among them since then.
However different the Republicans remain from the general populace, though, in one respect their politicalviews seems more in harmony with the public now. They wereasked about the present presidential primary system, its length, expense, and quality of candidates eventually produced. Almost as many disapproved of the system as approved of it. In that, they were echoing the thoughts of Americans whokeep telling pollsters they see this as another year of negative presidential choices.
But that, clearly, stands as a concern for the future. For now, the Republicans have theeyes fixed on the more immediate present. As one of their delegates said succinctly, in offering his advice to Reagan:"Get elected!"
That New Mexico man was born in 1908, whenTheodore Roosevelt won his second term and the GOP stood enshrined as American's majority party. He's seen a steady decline since.
Like that elephant that symbolizes his party, he remembers too well the lessons of too many defeats.
For him and for the GOP, the questions coming forth from theRepublicans now could be cast as two:
We know an elephantnever forgets -- but does it ever learn from its mistakes?And can its head control its heart?